Senior Vice President, Business Line EV Systems, Valmet Automotive Group
The transformation from combustion engine to electromobility is shaking up the automotive industry. Start-ups are enriching the industry with new ideas, and software companies from in particular have discovered the automotive industry. However, change also works the other way around. Valmet Automotive uses its know-how as a leading company in electromobility and opens up new business areas beyond the traditional automotive industry.
Valmet Automotive is one of the industry’s »early movers« in electromobility. In 2009/10, for example, the Think City, a small electric car designed as a city car by a Norwegian start-up and for a short while the most sold electric passenger car, rolled off the production line in Uusikaupunki, as did the Fisker Karma, a coupé sedan with range extender, almost in parallel.
Ever since those early days Valmet Automotive never let go of the topic. The entry of the Chinese battery giant CATL as a minority shareholder provided the initial boost to the company’s focus on electromobility in 2017. In 2018, we finally made the strategic move to electromobility, and the EV Systems business line was launched at the beginning of 2019. Already at the end of 2019, the first high-volume production of battery systems started in Salo, Finland, in the halls of Nokia’s former cell phone manufacturing plant.
In 2021, a second battery plant was taken into operation under the roof of the Uusikaupunki car plant. The third plant in Kirchardt, Germany, is currently in the ramp-up phase. In the summer of 2022, we reached 1 million battery systems produced in just three years. This gives us a leading role in Europe. And all three business lines – Vehicle Contract Manufacturing, EV Systems, and Roof & Kinematic Systems – are now ready for electromobility.
In order to back up our claim to be a technology company, and also to take advantage of the changes in the industry, we started working on our own modular battery platform with the implementation of the electric strategy. Ultimately, we decided to develop a battery platform for the so-called off-highway segment, i.e. electrification solutions for land vehicles, e.g. in agriculture and construction, but also in the bus and truck sector.
Why did we decide to tackle the Off-highway segment?
Of course, if we are talking about electrification, both the public but also the industry interest is focused heavily on automotive. This comes as no surprise. The car industry is huge, people love cars, cars move society, and they are today mobile devices linked to a huge value chain.
In the shade of this »big business,« it is often overlooked that there is an enormous need for more sustainable mobility solutions in the »special purpose vehicles« sector. This is because the energy consumption in industries other than automotive is huge. According to experts, Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, and fishery amounted to over one billion tons of CO2 per year.
In the shade of this »big business,« it is often overlooked that there is an enormous need for more sustainable mobility solutions in the »special purpose vehicles« sector.
Perhaps, as a company from Finland, we have a special sensitivity to the topic due to the strong forest and mining industries. In any case, it was first considered whether a substantial contribution could be made to reducing CO2 emissions from forestry machinery.
After more than two years of intensive product development, testing, and validation according to all relevant industry standards, with the involvement of some well-known industry players, we introduced our own Modular Battery Platform product family with the first product, the Modular Power Pack in November 2021.
The Modular Battery Platform delivers solutions for power needs in various land vehicle categories
- Modular Power Pack – High power applications, hybrids, fuel cell, peak shaving, boosting, etc.
- Build systems from 48 V to 800 V with up to 10C charge and discharge power with tens of thousands of cycles.
- BCU – Battery Control Unit including, e.g. Battery Management Unit
One of the industrial companies we worked with during the development phase to put the functionality, everyday suitability, and economic benefits through their paces was Ponsse, a leading global manufacturer of forestry machinery.
The fact that Ponsse nominated our company to supply the battery system for the new electric Ponsse EV1 forest machine technology concept in summer 2022, is a great success. The battery system designed and manufactured by Valmet Automotive is implemented into the EV1 in cooperation with Ponsse’s technology company Epec, which is responsible for the design and construction of the concept’s electric powertrain.
The EV1 concept has been developed for forwarders with a 15-tonne load-carrying capacity, the most popular Ponsse forwarder size category. The machine’s powertrain operates fully with battery energy. Batteries are charged using a Range Extender, which is a combustion engine at this stage of development. As Ponsse stated at the end of an extended testing phase, the technology provides significant improvements in fuel economy in this size category.
For Valmet Automotive the development and the now started production of the Modular Power Pack is a great opportunity to prove our capabilities as a system supplier and to step into new business. And of course, on the other hand, the in-depth knowledge in product development gives us strong support to continuously improve our battery know-how in the automotive business. Both in the automotive industry and in land vehicles, electric powertrains are the future. We deliver the solutions.